Corrugated City

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Fiestas Patrias and Holidays

This is likely to be my last post for a couple of weeks...we're really busy for the next few days and then on Monday we're off on holiday for 9 days in New York, something we're both really looking forward to. It'll be Lore's first time in La Gran Manzana and my first visit in 9 years. We've got a cousin coming to live in the flat and look after the cats and we're hoping to return rested and with some serious advances in the upstairs bit of the house.

Anyway, as everyone in Chile knows, this week has been given over to the country's fiestas patrias, a chance for everyone to get drunk, eat vast quantities of barbequed steak and dress up as huasos (Chilean cowboys). The big day was yesterday (the 18th) but the festivities started last Friday when we held a bbq for the work crew. Then we headed to the countryside house of a relative for more red meat, booze and horse riding (not for me, i don't like horses). And then finally, we held our first bbq at home in Valparaiso. It's been a fun few days. See you in a couple of weeks..!

Work asado

Family asado

Home asado. That's my huasa tique-tik

Thursday, 13 September 2007


We're finally back home in Valparaiso after almost 3 months away. The flat is a bit of a mess and will probably be so for the next few days until we get everything sorted out. Once it's looking like a home again i'll post some before, during and after photos.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Renovations-Life on the outside

So here are the photos i promised of the outside of the house with the scaffolding in place. This will all be finished and taken down by the weekend and then after the fiestas patrias (a week long celebration of Chile and being Chilean), they'll start on the other side of the house. And be finished with all the exterior after another 2 weeks or less work. You can also see the new colour. I love red houses.

A weekend in Santiago

We had a wedding to attend on Saturday in Santiago so we decided to go on Friday and see some houses for a client of ours. Despite my general dislike of Santiago, there are some parts that are really quite pretty on a sunny day. We went to see some houses in and around Providencia. There are some great properties in Santiago-loads of 1930s-1950s art deco and modernist houses with beautiful, sweeping wooden bannisters, huge art-deco bath tubs, high ceilings, gardens and other things that make life just a little nicer. Unfortunately, Chile is in the grip of a yuppie phase of its existence and most Chileans are happy to see these properties destroyed to make way for cheap, nasty DIY tower blocks where you can listen to your neighbour's number twos and all night shenanigans. This is slowly changing and Chileans are starting to wake up to the fact that these houses will be lost forever but the construction companies have too much economic power. It's hard for councils to say "no" as they need the money. My personal view is that there's some really, really decent profit to be made from remodelling existing structures and saving Chile's architecture. Obviously not enough to satisfy the blood-sucking construction companies but enough to make small-scale investors more than happy. And i'll be happy just to see these houses still standing in a few years time.

So, onto other topics. On Friday night we met up with some friends in Piola in Vitacura. Piola is an Italian pizza chain that was born in Treviso (aka Benettonville) and has a terrible reputation in its home town. Judging by Santiago's example, i'm not at all surprised. The entire night was a fiasco. Despite all ordering at the same time (and the restaurant not even being very busy), the food arrived at intervals of about 20 minutes, meaning that some of us had finished long before the others had even received their food. There were no pint glasses available (again-restaurant not even close to full) and we were told we could only have 330cc glasses and we'd be charged the higher price as well. The pizzas were undercooked. I complained and asked to see the manager. Instead, they sent up an inexperienced 'hostess' with large breasts swinging in my face to try and calm things down. This just enraged the girls present. The hostess finally offered a half-arsed apology and said she would 'see what Piola could do for' us. The answer? Absolutely nothing as she didn't return and then hid as we were leaving. We felt it necessary to leave just a 50 peso tip (that's 5p in England) in order to show that we hadn't just forgotten to tip and demonstrate our displeasure (to say the least). Moral of the story? Do not eat at Piola anywhere in the world.

Now, on to Saturday night and the wedding. It was a small affair, held at the Hyatt for just 350 of the bride and groom's closest friends. The Hyatt doesn't look like much from the outside, kind of like a glass-tipped suppository, but it's pretty cool from the inside with what must be one of the biggest atriums anywhere. The wedding was quite fun, although i left early as i felt a bit sick. Here's some proof that, when drunk enough, Chileans do know how to have a good time.

The Hyatt

This child is my mortal enemy and is, in actual fact, the devil himself.

The first dance

Chileans having fun

On Sunday, Lore's mum found an araña de rincon in the bath and trapped it. This spider is Chile's only really poisonous beastie and can cause severe pain and partial paralysis if you're unlucky enough to get bitten.

And on Monday, we had a really full day running around the entire city-starting off in Las Condes for a meeting and then heading to Santiago Centro to sign some papers. As it was lunch time, we headed to Domino. Domino is what fast food should be like everywhere. You walk in, stand at the bar and order from one of the many white-dressed waiters. Your churrasco or completo will arrive in just a couple of minutes. And it'll be the best churrasco of your life-tender, butter like strips of beef and tomato in a big bap. It's on Paseo Ahumada and Moneda

After lunch, we had to go to the delightful and charming neighbourhood of Pudahuel where we went to visit a demolition yard (unlike in Buenos Aires, demo yards are few and far between-it took us ages to find out about the existence of this place). We left as soon as we could as the smog in that part of town is awful and my head was hurting like hell. There were a few things that might come in handy for the house so we'll have to go back at some point. Maybe on a sunny day. After this we headed over to todoyeso to see about the cornices and moldings we're going to put back in the house. Actually, we look around their showroom and then go somewhere else we know of to get it all 40-50% cheaper. Clever, eh?

And then after this long and tiring day, we drove back to the coast for a bit of fresh air. On Wednesday, we're moving back to Valparaiso. Finally.

By the way, today is the 34th anniversary of the military coup that lead to a couple of decades of Pinochet in power. If you want to read bloggers' opinions on today's events i'd suggest heading over to bloggersinchile and checking out what other people have to say. I keep firmly out of politics as that's not the intention of this blog. Pretty pictures and positive, happy things are the order of the day here.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Downtown Valparaiso

It's been a while since i've posted any photos of Valparaiso as we've been living in Renaca for almost 3 long months now. I can't believe it's been so long. Anyway, i had an appointment today downtown and i decided to walk back along Av Brasil in order to take some photos-there's some great architecture along Brasil.

On the corner of Las Heras, there's a whole block of beautiful buildings in really good shape. Photos below. The first couple of photos are of a building used by the local police. Lucky pacos.

That cloud of smoke isn't smoke. It's steam from the Nescafe factory. Valpo often has a lovely aroma of coffee hanging over her.

I also walked through Plaza Anibal Pinto at the bottom of Cerro Alegre/Concepcion. This is where the now defunct Cafe Riquet is. There was some kind of free hippy concert on today with arts and handicraft for sale so i moved through as swiftly as possible. Here's a photo.

And this photo is of the huge apartment block right on the plaza. I really like this building from the 1940s or '50s-the round stairwell towers with glass bricks are really cool and i once spent a Saturday night on the terrace of the Brighton opposite watching an old couple dancing tango in a dimly lit room on one of the top floors. I'm not romantic, but that was beautiful to see.

And finally, a return shout out to fellow blogger in Chile Kyle over at lovetotravelchile, doing a fine job of explaining what to do and how to do it in Chile.

Renovations-The outside and the dungeon

I realised today that i haven't posted any pictures of the house from the outside. Actually, i have (in a previous post full of Valpo photos) but i haven't explicitly said which house it was. This was partly for privacy purposes and partly because i just forgot. Anyway, i don't appear to have any psycho stalkers who want to find me and kill me so i'm going to risk showing the house. As part of the property is going to be our full time, walk-in office, i may as well be open about it all. And also, if you just ask around on Cerro Concepcion, someone will know who i am. It still surprises me when people i've never met already know who i am. That's one of the good and bad parts about living on Cerro Concepcion-everyone knows everyone, like in a little village. Fun and also a little annoying.

So with too much further ado, below are some photos of the house that i took before the work started. The colour is going to be very different but i'll show that another time. By way of explanation, the ground floor is the independent flat we were and will again soon be living in and the two floors above are where we'll live when the work is finished in December. You can see that it's a pretty big job-we are, to all intents and purposes, rebuilding the entire timber structure of the house, re-laying all the wooden floors (after laying a concrete floor down between levels), re-wiring the entire house, re-plumbing, installing central heating, replacing all the cornices and moldings, re-painting the exterior, putting in a new kitchen and 3 new bathrooms, obviously re-painting the entire interior and doing something else that i can't mention just yet. In 7 months. Crazy? Possibly, but this is something we love doing and is part of our business so it's all good. And it's economically a sound project as the house will be worth 40-50% more than we put in once it's finished.

I forgot to take photos of the guys working on the scaffolding outside but i'll do so early next week. So that was actually quite a lot of ado. Now for the photos of my ship-shape house.

Also, the floors of the flat are being re-polished and varnished today and tomorrow. We're going away for the weekend. The joys of Santiago and a big family wedding await. On our return on Monday, the floors should be ready but we're going to leave them 'til Wednesday to give them time to completely dry out before moving lots of heavy furniture around.

Anyway, a while ago I posted a picture of the one room in the house that's slightly underground. Here it is:

This is how it looks now. The floors needs varnishing and that's about it. You can see the cement in the bottom corner is still not dry after almost a month. That's because the room doesn't see much sun and, as it's winter, it's too cool to really dry properly. Next week we'll have the central heating on which will dry it all out in a couple of days. It's quite cool to see how the house was built-huge rocks and then bricks on top. The big wall on which the house is standing is actually all made from bricks. A previous owner cemented on top of the brick to give the 'muro de contencion' more strength. That's a shame, as i like the brick work, but it's probably a good thing.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Renovations-still not home

The floor in our downstairs flat was supposed to have been polished and varnished by today. It's not completely finished...and what has been done has been done really badly meaning we're making the guy do the work again. So this also means we won't be moving back until next Monday. A big pain in the arse as we're both desperate to move home. At least this time we know for sure it'll be next Monday as there's nothing but the floor to done.

In the meantime, work upstairs is moving along at a hell of a rate. Remember this photo from the top floor a couple of weeks ago?

This is what it looks like now from the inside. Also, the exterior corrugated iron has been painted its shiny new colour (photos to come when the scaffolding is taken down next week).

On top of this, the entire middle floor of one side of the house has been rebuilt and repainted outside and the adobe has been put back in place on the inside. We're saving as many of the original adobe blocks as possible because it's a far better insulating material than chemically produced glass-fibre wool. It's also cheaper as we already have it. The tubing for the house's new electrical system is being put in place, the carpenter is making new windows, the plumber is plumbing and the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales is deciding whether to let us make the exterior changes that we want to make to improve the property and make our lives more pleasant (i'll tell you what the changes are if and when we get permission).

So, lots of progress but not quite enough in our flat. If the guy varnishing the floors gets it wrong again, he's going to lose some fingers.